NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( WKRN) – In his first remarks as the new speaker of the Tennessee House, Rep. Cameron Sexton made one promise.
“My promise as speaker is simple,” said Sexton shortly after being sworn in as speaker. “We won’t always agree on every issue but I will always make sure your voice is heard.”
Keeping that promise is just one of the many things that makes up the intense spotlight of being speaker for the 99-member House which includes 73-Republicans.
Rep. Sexton got a bit used to reporters often asking him questions during his brief nine months in one of the top leadership positions as House Republican caucus chair.
Some fellow Republicans felt penalized for not supporting the election of former Speaker Glen Casada.
New Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison lost his chairmanship of committees and had his office moved to an obscure corner of the legislative office building in the aftermath of Casada’s election.
In his first remarks as a speaker, Rep. Sexton said everyone in the House “wants great schools, great jobs, great infrastructure, and great healthcare.”
Speaker Sexton said he will “always encourage robust but respectful debate on how to get there, but lingering is the issue of what happens with Republican Representative David Byrd who has been accused of sexually abusing three basketball players he coached decades before being elected to the legislature.
“He refuses to speak to it. He refuses to answer to it, so therefore we need to do our jobs,” said Democrat Rep. Gloria Johnson who has sought to remove Rep. Byrd from the legislature since the allegations surfaced.
Rep. Byrd reportedly told his Republican House colleagues in a closed caucus meeting last week he would not run for re-election, but the lawmaker has not said if he will do that publicly.
The new speaker has asked for an attorney general’s opinion on whether or not the House can remove a member for alleged behavior before taking office.